Norma Kassi Receives Food Secure Canada's Cathleen Kneen Award for her Dedication to Building a More Just and Sustainable Food System

Press Release - FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE        
October 11th, 2016

Whitehorse, YT – Food Secure Canada (FSC) recently announced the recipients of the 3rd Cathleen Kneen award: Norma Kassi, Co-Founder of and Director of Indigenous Collaboration at the Arctic Institute of Community-Based Research (AICBR) and Abra Brynne, Agriculture and Food Systems Consultant. This award recognizes individuals for their leadership, vision, grassroots activism, and dedication to building a more just and ecological food system.  The two recipients will officially receive their award at Food Secure Canada’s 9th National Assembly in Toronto (Ryerson University, Engineering Building, Room ENG 103), Sunday, October 16th (10:30 – 11:00 am PST).

Cathleen Kneen was a founding member of Food Secure Canada, a social justice activist, a sheep farmer, and a network builder. She served as Chair on FSC's Board of Directors from 2006 to 2011 and was instrumental in bringing food sovereignty and food security issues in Canada to the International stage. Leader of the People’s Food Policy Project, Resetting the Table, she was part of a broader movement advocating for a national food sovereignty policy for Canada and built up Food Secure Canada, now a pan-Canadian alliance of organizations and individuals working to advance food security and food sovereignty, one person at a time.

Norma Kassi, is Vuntut Gwitchin (People of the Lakes), was a former Chief and Member of Yukon’s Legislative Assembly as well as a spokesperson for the preservation of the Porcupine Caribou herd on behalf of Gwitchin Nation, in addition to many other honourable roles. Now Co-Founder of and Director of Indigenous Collaboration at AICBR, she is deeply committed to building healthy, just and sustainable food systems in the North and is passionate about working with youth to become strong leaders for their communities. Her work spans multiple areas and levels: from the grassroots, working with communities to develop their own food security and climate change adaptation strategies, to bringing together decision-makers and other influential players to discuss key issues related to improving health, food security and the environment.

She asserts that now more than ever through these challenging times, people need to work together. Like Cathleen Kneen, she believes that it will take a strong network of people and organizations to advance food security and food sovereignty in this country. Raised by her grandfather, who instilled in her the traditional values and knowledge of the Vuntut Gwitchin and emphasized the need to be prepared for what is to come, she has dedicated her life to ensure that Indigenous peoples maintain their sovereignty rights over their traditional food sources. 

After receiving news of the award Kassi said,

“I am truly humbled to accept this award on behalf of future generations of all cultures, in honour of Cathleen Kneen. She was courageous and bold. She started the Indigenous Circle at Food Secure Canada and believed strongly in reaching across all cultures without fear; she encouraged us Indigenous peoples that in order to build a strong Indigenous food sovereignty movement we can not work in silos. I believe that communities in the North can speak from themselves, that they have the knowledge; we are at the forefront of climate change and food insecurity, especially in the Arctic regions, and if we work together we can and will make an impact. We have a strong voice and if we raise it in unison on the key issues that affect us, people will listen.”

This past May, Norma, along with the rest of the AICBR team, hosted the Yukon Food Security Roundtable to contribute to the growing need for concerted food security planning across the North. This was the first meeting known of its kind in Yukon that brought together multiple sectors across the territory and beyond to analyze the Yukon food system, develop a common understanding of food security in the territory and advance action planning for a more food secure future. Currently, AICBR is working with other Northern and Federal partners to build a more comprehensive picture of food security across the North and project a strong, collective voice advocating for Northern input to federal food policy development. They will be co-hosting a northern food security session at Food Secure Canada’s Assembly with Food First Newfoundland and Labrador and Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami ( as well as a Northern Networking and Information Sharing Gathering with Food Secure Canada, October 13th. Participation from those interested in contributing to Northern food security planning is welcomed and encouraged. Please contact for more details.

For more information about the Cathleen Kneen Award and Food Secure Canada please visit:


Contact for Interviews:

Norma Kassi, Director of Indigenous Collaboration

Arctic Institute of Community-Based Research

w: 867-668-3393 | c: 867-334-4024 | e:

About AICBR:

The Arctic Institute of Community-Based Research (AICBR), founded in 2006, is a unique northern organization working to improve community health and well-being in Canada’s North through partnerships, collaboration, and the co-production of knowledge and relevant solutions. Current research priorities include: food security and food sovereignty, climate change, healthy lifestyles, youth engagement and mental health, and chronic disease prevention.  AICBR works with Northern Indigenous and non-Indigenous communities, non-governmental organizations, governments (Indigenous, territorial, and federal), academics, graduate students, research organizations, and the private sector. Our approach prioritizes the principles of community-based research, youth engagement, collective impact, partnership development, community capacity building, knowledge sharing, inter-sectoral collaboration and evaluation.